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a) When you make a mistake you have to admit that you make a mistake.

b) When you make a mistake you have to admit that you made a mistake.

c) When you make a mistake you have to admit that you've made a mistake.

I learned that you use the simple present tense for general facts.

I am wondering about the range of use of the present tense for general facts. And these are some sentences I can come up with at the moment. Which one is more correct?
Comments  
Hello M&M

a) is not correct, because the admission has to follow the mistake.

b) would (I think) be fine in AmE, as would c); in BrE you'd mostly use c).

In this example, the first phrase ('When you make a mistake...') is fine in the present tense, as it introduces the general rule; but the second 'mistake' phrase is controlled by 'admit', and so must follow the logic of events ('admission' follows 'mistake').

MrP
I would accept either b or c. The 'rule' about 'timeless truths' or 'general facts' taking the simple present (which perhaps should really be called the 'simple non-past') applies to your main statement of truth, 'when you make..., you have to....' but not necessarily to all subordination.

'When we leap into the air, gravity pulls us back to earth, unless we have been gorging ourselves on helium.'

'When the alarm rings, a person wakes up if he didn't die in his sleep.'
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Hello M&M, Mr P and Mr Mic

I haven't ever come across this issue before.

If I didn't see your question and answers, I might say like:
"When you made a mistake, you have to admit you made a mistake".
(This is a direct translation of our saying in Japanese).

Thank you all for letting me know I was wrong.

paco
Yours would sound better if you changed the 'when' to 'if', Paco. This would not be a 'general statement' so much as a comment on a past error.
Mr Micawber

Even in a general statement like this, in the Japanese language, we use the past tense for the adverbial clause, i.e.,"when you a mistake". Maybe we do so because we need use the past tense in the main clause; admit you it. This seems a nice example to understand the difference in clause-tense relations between Japanese and English.

Thank you again.

paco

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